The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada presents a great opportunity for us to offer predictions. Bracelets, Player of the Year, and breakout players are all on the tip of pundit’s tongues. But it’s difficult to make these educated guesses when intentions for certain players remain a mystery.
The five players listed below are capable of winning a bracelet but past results in previous WSOP seasons and 2018 suggest predicting a specific result is anyone’s guess. One player you won’t find on the list this year is Phil Ivey, who recently told PokerNews he plans to return to the Rio to play some tournaments after skipping several years.
1. Scott Blumstein
The reigning World Series of Poker Main Event champion has played sporadic poker since his win last July. Most of Blumstein’s tournaments have been on the World Poker Tour and he notched a single cash in Season XVI at his home casino of Borgata in New Jersey.
Blumstein ran deep in the Parx 1500 in March and finished ninth at a tough final table that included Justin Liberto, Christian Harder, and WPT runner-up Greg Weber.
Last summer, Blumstein played two events in Las Vegas: the Wynn Summer Classic Championship and the WSOP Main Event. The 26-year-old has yet to put in a full summer’s grind in Las Vegas during his career and perhaps the seven-figure bankroll influx is enough to get him to play a consistent schedule.
However many events Blumstein registers for, all eyes are on him in every single one.
2. Art Papazyan
Papazyan is a near lock to win Season XVI WPT Player of the Year honors. What comes next for Papazyan after that is conjecture. The Legends of Poker win in August started a string of tournaments entered by Papazyan and is the only time in his career he’s made a consistent effort to even register.
In 2017, Papazyan had a bankroll strong enough to enter the $10,000 WSOP Main Event but chose to grind cash games in Los Angeles, California instead. Papazyan says he will play at least the Main Event this summer but is uncommitted to plans outside of that tournament.
Cash games on Live at the Bike and in Los Angeles have Papazyan’s attention for now but that could change should the itch strike at any point.
3. Chris Ferguson
The reigning WSOP Player of the Year has not entered a single event since winning his sixth career bracelet last October in Rozvadov at WSOP Europe. Ferguson appeared out of thin air in 2016 to record his first tournament cashes since 2010.
He then went back into solitude until last summer when he put together a campaign for the ages, smashing the WSOP cashes record for a single year. He now has a banner waiting for him inside the Rio Convention Center.
Trying to predict what Ferguson has planned for an encore is a hunch, at best. He will likely show up at the bare minimum to accept his Player of the Year award and give a speech. That speech is a topic many in the poker world are curious about given Ferguson’s reluctance to give interviews since returning to the WSOP.
If Ferguson decides to chase a repeat POY performance, his two years back in the WSOP fold suggest he is a favorite to be in the running for most of the summer.
4. Paul Volpe
This year is the first in Volpe’s career that he hasn’t notched a single cash prior to the WSOP. In fact, Volpe’s barely played any tournaments at all this year. The only tournament on record of Volpe participating in is the Borgata Winter Poker Open which requires a short drive from his home in Pennsylvania.
Volpe tends to travel out west for the spring WPT events but stayed home instead for Season XVI. Last summer, Volpe tweeted he wasn’t enjoying the tournament grind like he once did and that burnout may have carried over to 2018.
A first-ballot player on the list of best all-around in the game, Volpe can show up and snatch a bracelet without surprising anyone. Maybe the time off is what Volpe needs to come back strong and win his third career bracelet.
5. Cate Hall
Similar to Volpe, Hall has not been active on the WPT Main Tour this year. Even Hall’s vaunted Twitter account has slowed down. Her last major update came in April when Hall mentioned she was living in the Bay Area.
Life update: Living in a commune with a bunch of 25 y.o. poly geniuses
— Cate Hall (@catehall) April 25, 2018
— Cate Hall (@catehall) April 25, 2018
Hall alluded that she will be playing this summer but did not give any specific indication toward her schedule. She produced a respectable six cashes in 2017, including her first Main Event payout.
The Season XIV WPT Player of the Year contender is still working on her first career WSOP final table.
Summer is the time for a new awakening and Hall’s Twitter account and tournament game are both looking toward a welcomed revival.